Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Big XII Doesn't Need Texas A&M; It Needs Boise State

(If you're wondering about the delay between posts, I took a new job in Washington, DC and the past month has been spent starting the new gig and moving from Connecticut. So I've been a little busy. Still be a little while before I'm settled but....it feels good to post again.)

In 2010, the most-talked about college football team didn’t play in the SEC or the Pac-10. It didn’t have Ohio State, Texas or Florida State on the schedule. It played in a small stadium on a blue field. Sure, Cam Newton ended up being the most-discussed player. But from beginning to end of the regular season, there was one team that dominated discussion – Boise State.

On the opening weekend of the 2010 college football season, Boise State made an indelible imprint that marked a significant change in the landscape of the sport. On Labor Day night, they strode into Washington, DC, in front of a wildly partisan crowd of 80,000 Hokie fans and came back to stun the future ACC champions with a two-minute drill for a touchdown that should be replayed to every high school quarterback from now until eternity. Yet that was not the imprint.

The imprint came Tuesday when the ratings came in. Boise State and Virginia Tech had played in the second most-watched regular season college football game on cable in the history of college football. It matched the rating, but not the viewership, of the #1 game, USC vs. Ohio State. Let that sink in for a while – Ohio State and USC are two of the most storied schools in the history of the game. Boise State has only been in the top division of the sport for merely a decade.

For the next three months, Boise State’s quest for an undefeated season and its merit to actually play for a national title was a constant topic of conversation on any and every college football-related sports show. It seeped into the national sports landscape, with columnists and commentators from California to Connecticut weighing in. The climax of Boise State’s season was by far the most entertaining game of the season, a heart-wrenching defeat to fellow Top 20 team Nevada.

Again, the bigger upset came the following week when it was revealed nearly 6 million people had watched. Yes, nearly 6 million people stayed up to watch a game that ended at roughly 2:30 in the morning. In Hartford, I was preparing to get up at 6am to start tailgating for UConn’s season finale – I watched every play. I wasn’t the only one.

I bring all of this up because there is a certain college football conference that is on the verge of collapse. The Big XII is a masquerading as a conference when it really just exists to give Texas and Oklahoma enough games to fill out its schedule. They are married to each other because that’s where its money lies. The other Big XII schools hang around; much like an entourage member hangs around the star to get the leftover women. Insert ‘money’ for ‘women’ and you’ll understand why Baylor is the football equivalent of Turtle.

But Texas A&M has tired of its role as Johnny Drama and has flirted with the sexy girl in the room, the SEC. Texas A&M, however, means nothing to the Big XII. In fact, it holds a lot more clout for the SEC since it can deposit Texas in its territory and let its schools ransack the state’s tremendous football talent to further stock its rosters. Texas and Oklahoma don’t care – they’ll still get the pick of the litter.

There is one tremendous problem – the Big XII is a decidedly awful television product. Sure, anything involving Texas and Oklahoma is worth a nationally televised slot, whether it’s Texas vs. Oklahoma or Texas vs. Kansas. But the conference produces a whole lot of Baylor vs. Missouri and Kansas State vs. Texas Tech games that barely resonate.

The Big XII needs a third star. The Big XII needs a hook. The Big XII needs to make a splash. The Big XII needs Boise State.

Am I crazy or does Boise State vs. Texas and Boise State vs. Oklahoma instantly become two of the biggest games on the college football calendar? Imagine the intrigue when big bad Texas has to slum it up in Boise, running onto the Smurf Turf and battling the little guy in its backyard.

Put it this way – as a college football fan, would you rather watch Oklahoma at Texas A&M or Oklahoma at Boise State?

When the Texas A&M/SEC flirtations heated up, rumors started that the SEC wanted Florida State. Not because the Seminoles would ‘expand’ the SEC’s territory but because Florida State was a national brand that would increase the value of the conference.

No one can argue that Boise resides in a big market or that the state of Idaho is a treasured television territory. Likewise, no one can argue the appeal of Boise State to a national audience. Since the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, everyone has heard of Boise State. Everyone knows how good they are. Everyone knows they are a legit top ten team year after year.

So what if Idaho isn’t within driving distance of Austin and Norman? Boise State instantly increases the value of the Big XII television package and, let’s be honest, television is driving this train. Not only does Boise State give the Big XII two mega-games to promote, it has a whole schedule of Boise State games that people will want to see. Boise State vs. Missouri is instantly more appealing than Baylor vs. Missouri. Do you think FX or ESPN would rather show Kansas vs. Texas Tech or Boise State vs. Texas Tech?

If the Big XII wants to save itself and protect its future, they need to think big. Replacing Texas A&M with Houston and/or SMU does nothing, while trying to invite BYU makes but a ripple in a small pond.

Boise State is the big splash that the Big XII needs to make. Boise State is the school that would make the Big XII a legitimate conference and set it up to actually survive the next round of conference realignment.

Of course, Texas may take one look at the big, bad Broncos and think….let’s invite SMU instead.

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2 comments:

  1. Funny it was TCU instead.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Crazy that no one would pick Boise over Texas A&M now. but i supposed this made sense in 2011.

    ReplyDelete